3/21: Gators excited about defensive possibilities

With the Florida Gators starting spring practice for the 2011 season last Wednesday, the school made a number of the team’s defense players available to the media as the second week of action began on Monday. There was a noticeable excitement in the air about the possibilities in Florida’s new defense under head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, as evidenced by some of the notable news and quotes provided during the press sessions.

SOPHOMORES FINALLY ADJUSTED

Though sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd seemed to adjust well in 2010, the same cannot be said for linebacker/defensive end Ronald Powell and DT Dominique Easley. Powell buckled down and got more opportunities to see the field later in the year, but Easley appeared to be a problem off the field who needed to get his head on straight and get his mind in the game. Months later, all seems well with the trio of five-star players who are ready and focused to compete in 2011.

“I don’t think it was a case of us not being focused last year,” Floyd said. “New coming into a program, fresh out of high school, we had to get adjusted to things and I think we all got the gist of it.” He noted that, after the season was over, everything came together for the group. With Floyd improving his game and Powell happy in the new system (see below), the only question that remains is Easley’s level of dedication. He was not made available on Monday, and Floyd deflected questions about him when asked.

“He’s my roommate; he’s my brother. I take care of him; he takes care of me. He looks after me; I look after him,” he said, before responding to whether or not Easley is completely on board this year. “That’s a question for him. I know he’s a lot more focused than last year. He’s seeing the big picture now.”

POWELL, FLOYD MAKING STRIDES

Speaking of Powell and Floyd, both players are going to be counted on to have a major impact on the defense in 2011. Powell is already noticing the differences and is excited about the possibilities. “It’s a great fit for me. A great fit. Dan Quinn and Bryant Young, they’re great coaches. The system that they’re running is a great fit,” he said. “I’m loving it. Loving it. It’s more freedom. You don’t have to have your hand in the ground all the time. You can stand up. It’s kind of my choice.” Powell, playing buck linebacker, will have options of standing up, putting his hand down, dropping or rushing; this will allow him to take advantage of his athleticism to cover the field and cause maximum damage.

Like his teammate, Floyd has cut out poor habits (such as standing up too high, not being physical enough and not using his hands correctly) and is more focused on doing what it takes to succeed. “I had a lot of bad tendencies last year,” he said. “That was my fault, obviously. Listening to [Young] and getting in his ear, wanting to learn what he knows – that’s helping me a lot more play with my hands and stay lower, things like that.”

THOUGHTS ON THE NEW DEFENSE

Junior LB Jon Bostic: “The main thing with this defense is [that it’s] backwards and forwards. If you play Mike, you play Will. A guy may motion across; you can go from being the Mike to the Will. A lot of the stuff – you got to know everything.”

Senior DE William Green: “I like it a lot. I’m really excited about what we’re doing.”

Redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins: “I like it a lot. It seems like it really frees up the linebackers and allows us to run a little bit. […] We’re going to be the same defense that we’ve always been at Florida. We’re going to run, hit hard, keep being relentless and be aggressive. That’s kind of how we’ve always been; that’s not going to be a difference.”

Redshirt junior DE/LB Lerentee McCray*: “I love the new defense. You’ve just got to see it on the field. It’s a different concept, a different style of defense.”

QUOTES

Bostic on playing for his third defensive coordinator: “I like it because I’m actually getting to learn different types of defenses, how different coaches coach different defenses. It’s not really a change to me; I kind of see it as another learning aspect.”

Bostic on how the team is progressing: “Everybody’s picking up. It’s going pretty fast, but everybody’s helping each other out. We’re trying to talk a lot more out there than we did. Everybody’s got to help everybody.”

Green on Quinn: “I like him a lot. He’s a real good technician guy. He’s a real good high-energy guy, and a real good person, too. I’m enjoying the coaches a lot.”

Green on stepping up to be a leader: “I feel like I’m four years older than everybody out there. It’s time to be an example for all the young guys. This is my time to step up and really help the team.”

McCray on playing the buck position*: “It’s helping my career. It’s easy to adjust to both [linebacker and defensive end]. I like it. It gives me the opportunity to do the things a linebacker does, and rush and drop into coverage. I like playing it.”

Redshirt freshman Gerald Christian on moving to linebacker^: “At first I didn’t know why, but they told me it’s the best fit for the team. They need big bodies playing linebacker, so they wanted to try me out there. I’m No. 1 on the depth chart right now, but I’ve still got to earn the position. Nothing’s set in stone, but I feel like I’m going to bust my butt every day.”

Attribution: Quotes without marks were acquired by OGGOA. Those marked with * are courtesy of The Gainesville Sun, and those with a ^ are courtesy of the Palm Beach Post.

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3/16: Muschamp’s thoughts from spring practice

With the Florida Gators beginning spring practice for the 2011 season on Wednesday, head coach Will Muschamp met the media afterward to discuss a variety of topics including the offseason program, injuries and happenings on the field. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his availability.

CLEARING UP MISCONCEPTIONS

Contrary to conjecture elsewhere, Muschamp confirmed that the only reason senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins is sitting out spring practice strictly due to his offseason shoulder surgery – not his run-in with the law earlier this year. “He had reconstructive shoulder surgery from the season, so there’s no contact,” he said. “A lot of his situation coming back was not being able to go through the combine or any type of offseason workout. No testing for any scouts. He felt like he could help the situation by coming back and getting his shoulder healthy. He just got out of the sling two weeks ago, I think.”

Muschamp also divulged that redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr., who got some playing time late in the season, is officially back on scholarship after having it pulled by former head coach Urban Meyer due to a DUI arrest.

DAY ONE ACTIVITIES

Though he was excited to get on the field Wednesday and see his players work, Muschamp cautioned that not much can be taken away from the day’s events – especially considering the players were without helmets and still trying to find their groove. “Day one, we’re out there in shorts, pajamas running around. You don’t play football in that; you play football in pads,” he said. “Everybody was going to be enthusiastic. Today was easy.”

He also stressed the importance he put on practice in general. “I want the guys that guys that like ball, want to be out there all the time,” Muschamp said. “Practice is a huge part of the game; preparation is a huge part of the game. The really good players I’ve been around, they’ve practiced.”

BEING INJURED IS NOT ALWAYS AN EXCUSE

Muschamp certainly does not have plans to aggravate injuries or cause old ones to flare up, but he did divulge a policy on practicing, noting that he expects maximum effort at all times even if players are not 100 percent. He also commented that the unfinished depth chart will not show the names of players who are not participating in full.

“Guys that don’t go through the full offseason, they don’t deserve to be in the two-deep [depth chart], in my opinion. Injuries are part of the game, but it’s also a part of our evaluation,” he said. “We want durable, dependable players. If you’re not going to practice, you’re not going to play. Practice is important to me; it’s preparation. Those things are critical to me.

“Now if you’ve got an injury, a surgical situation, then I understand that. I understand that injuries are a part of the game. We also have to move on and prepare somebody else, and that’s why we cross-train guys at a lot of positions, so they’re able to get out and prepare for game seven when somebody goes down. So we’re able to get the best 11 on the field instead of putting a guy out there that’s maybe not as good as somebody else sitting on the sideline.”

Jokingly, Muschamp was amazed at how healthy players suddenly get when it is time to step out of the weight room and onto the field.

“When we get into fall camp, the injury report will be two pages long. And the day before the first week, the injury report will have two names on it. In the offseason program we’ve got a two-page-long injury report; we had three names on it today,” he said. “My point being, when they get close to football and playing, they all get well. It’s never changed no matter if it’s Florida or anywhere else I’ve been. It’s amazing how that happens. The trainer rides in on his white horse and all of a sudden gets them well. It’s phenomenal.”

QUOTES

On how the first day felt to him: “I love the offseason program. It’s one of my favorite times of the year to see your team develop and develop your football team in that time. To really see guys push through a tough time when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. To get on the grass and coach – that’s my most fun thing to do. And I like spring because you’re able to really develop and teach [without] the pressure of getting ready for a game.”

On how quarterback reps are being distributed: “All three guys are repping through practice right now. All of those are getting turns and reps. We’re really right now rolling a lot of players regardless. We don’t necessarily have first group, second group. All guys have repped with all groups, so it’s not like one guy is getting all the reps with one group.”

On how to keep five-star QB Jeff Driskel level-headed with all of the hype coming in: “Treat him like everybody else. The guy’s absolutely no different to me other than the fact that he’s got a red jersey on the field because he’s a quarterback. That’s it.”

On recruiting rankings: “What you’ve accomplished in high school does not mean you’ve accomplished anything in college. It’s a different game; it’s a different level. I always tell them, ‘You can take all the stars and…’ You can fill in the sentence. If you live in yesterday, you’ll never see tomorrow.”

On what buck defensive end Ronald Powell brings to the table: “Ronald’s an explosive, strong, tough, hard-nosed football player. He’s a guy that we feel like we can create some one-on-ones and some mismatches for an offense. He’s a guy I think you’re going to need to account for based on what I’ve seen so far in the offseason program, his film from last year. I think he’s a good player and a guy we’re looking forward to seeing how productive he can be over the long haul.”

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Coordinators Weis, Quinn energized and excited

With the Florida Gators set to begin 2011 spring practice on Wednesday, the team’s two new coordinators – Charlie Weis (offense) and Dan Quinn (defense) – met with the media Monday to discuss a variety of topics including personnel, schemes, position changes, their respective relationships with head coach Will Muschamp and transitioning from the NFL back to college football.

LEAVING THE NFL FOR THE GATORS

For Weis and Quinn, each had different reasons for trading in a comfortable job in the NFL for a new opportunity with Florida. Weis’s main concern was his family. His daughter Hannah is a special needs child, and his family being spread across the country in three different locations was not desirable. Instead, Weis and his son Charlie Jr. (who will be a student assistant on the team seeing as he aspires to be a football coach) will be in Gainesville, FL while his wife and daughter primarily reside in South Bend, IN when the weather is warm before traveling down south for the winter.

“It was a fairly easy decision but almost all of it was directly related to family issues,” Weis explained. “When Will called and I thought about how I could best take care of my family, the fact that my son could end up going to school here, my wife’s a horse person so I’m buying a house in the Ocala area – so I got serious brownie points on that end right there, too. The fact that I could take care of my wife and my daughter and my son and kind of mesh everything together, really it’s as simple of an answer as that one.”

Quinn’s decision was more about familiarity and the desire to work with an old friend again. “When the opportunity came to come work with [Muschamp], it really was an easy [decision] for me. I thought the guy had all the right stuff about him as a coach, so when I had the opportunity to come to a place like this, it really was easy for me,” he said. “I had a great experience in the NFL – loved it and made some terrific connections – but it was just a new challenge for me and something I was looking forward to doing. […] Will and I see football a lot in the same way. That connection is what brought me here. We do see things along the same line.”

Read everything Weis and Quinn had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » Coordinators Weis, Quinn energized and excited

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Eleven Gators who must step up in 2011

With a few days until No. 14 Florida Gators basketball plays its final regular season game, OGGOA decided to allow our Twitter followers to choose a content topic for Thursday. Overwhelmingly, our readers wanted to read something – anything – about Gators football. So that is exactly what we present to you here, 11 Florida footballers who will be counted on to step up big-time next season.

Redshirt senior QB John Brantley
2010: 200/329 (60.8 percent) for 2,061 yards, nine touchdowns, 10 interceptions

There is plenty of hype surrounding freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel, but the fact of the matter is the Gators have the best chance of being supremely successful in 2011 with Brantley behind center. Say what you will about his struggles in 2010 – blame them on the coaching staff not adjusting the offense to suit his skill set, the offensive line doing a poor job in pass protection or Brantley simply not living up the billing he received before the season. No matter what you choose to believe, Brantley will be given a chance to start fresh in 2011. If he makes the most of it and pans out the way Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews have personally told us he will, Florida’s QB problems will be solved by the same player who was universally panned for causing them a year ago. Whether or not he will live up those expectations, however, remains to be seen.

Redshirt sophomore WR Andre Debose
2010: 10 receptions for 96 yards (long 26); 22 kickoff returns for 587 yards (26.7 average), two touchdowns

Like Brantley, Debose did not live up to the hype in 2010. Unlike Brantley, he was not given much of an opportunity. Debose is a dynamic athlete who is explosive in the open field, something blatantly obvious by the job he did in the return game last season. He was criticized by former head coach Urban Meyer for his inability to learn all of the offensive plays and was “rewarded” early in the season with some packages that utilized his abilities. Those packages seemed to disappear as the year went on, and Debose ended up getting injured for the second time in as many seasons (hamstring in 2009, ankle in 2010). Though the Gators have some hungry pass-catchers looking to win the job across from redshirt senior wide receiver Deonte Thompson, none of them will likely have the potential impact game-in and game-out that Debose can bring to the table.

Junior RB Mike Gillislee
2010: 58 rushes for 325 yards (5.6 average), seven touchdowns

The first thing new head coach Will Mushcamp said he wanted to implement at Florida was a pro-style offense. With senior running back Jeff Demps (5’8” 190 lbs.) a bit undersized to run between the tackles on a consistent basis, the onus will be on Gillislee (and to a lesser extent redshirt freshman RB Mack Brown) to carry the rock for the Gators in 2010. Listed at 5‘11” and 198 lbs., Gillislee can add some bulk to his frame and showed flashes in the limited playing time he received last season.

The real question for Muschamp, and more specifically offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, will be how the team can best utilize Demps and redshirt senior RB/WR Chris Rainey. Demps will likely be the kick returner once again, but the coaching staff must find a way to get him heavily involved in the offense without having him carry the ball a dozen times each game. He was the team’s best offensive weapon last year, and his absence (even when he played, he was far less than 100 percent) was one of the main reasons Florida struggled down the stretch offensively.
Continue Reading » Eleven Gators who must step up in 2011

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Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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12/29: Players speak at Outback Bowl gathering

The Florida Gators are currently in Tampa, FL, preparing for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. Below are some notes from the players who spoke with the media on Wednesday.

THIS ONE’s FOR MEYER

Though the players – especially the seniors – obviously want to win their final game in the orange and blue for themselves, they all realize that it is important to send head coach Urban Meyer out on top. That was a common topic of conversation Wednesday.

“We are going to do everything possible to get this win, not only for us, but for him. It’s his last game as well as ours,” senior linebacker Brandon Hicks said. “It’s going to be an emotional time for all of us. I know he’s going to have some tears. Some guys may have some tears. I don’t know, I may have tears. Coach Meyer was a great person, a great coach, and it’s something that you can’t really exchange that for anybody.”

Redshirt senior LB A.J. Jones shared a similar sentiment. “I know it’s going to be pretty emotional because Coach Meyer’s a great man,” he said. “He’s done a lot for us and he’s done a lot for this program. As we want to go out with a bang, the seniors, we want to send him out with a bang, too. Because we know how much we’ve done for each other.”

Senior center Mike Pouncey recalled his thoughts of Florida under Meyer. “Dominant. When we stepped on the field, we never thought we would be beat. We won a lot of games,” he said. “He’s a real emotional coach. He loves to attack other teams, especially on special teams. That really gives him the edge, that he’s a real aggressive coach.”

EARLY THOUGHTS ON MUSCHAMP

They will not have the chance to play under him in Gainesville, FL, but Hicks and Jones also had positive things to say about new Gators head coach Will Muschamp in the little they have seen and heard from him recently.

“He’s going to do great here. He’s a coach that has a lot of drive and a lot of want-to to win,” Hicks said. “He’s excited about the program and what direction he can take it in. They’re going to get the program rolling,” added Jones. “When [athletic director] Jeremy Foley said he was going to be a coach in here, I knew he was going to bring in the best coach possible.”

REDEMPTION FOR THE GATORS

Hicks also sees Saturday’s game as an effort for the team to get a little redemption. “We are going to go out this last game and show what we can do, what we should have done and what we are going to do,” he said. Senior punter Chas Henry agrees. “It’s going to be a very emotional, very hard-fought game,” he added.

TURNING POINT IN THE SEASON

Looking back, Pouncey points to LSU’s come-from-behind win on a fake field goal and fourth down conversion as the turning point where things nose-dived for Florida. “That was the swinging point of our season. If we would have won that game, we would have had all the momentum going into homecoming to beat Mississippi State,” he said. “It came down to them faking a field goal and getting a first down on fourth and four. That’s how the game swung. Once your team has momentum, it’s hard to beat a team with momentum. We lost all our momentum especially when we thought we won the game again.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 12/29: Players speak at Outback Bowl gathering

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Five Florida freshmen earn 2010 All-SEC honors

Five Florida Gators football players were voted by Southeastern Conference head coaches as members of the 2010 All-SEC Freshman Team on Thursday.

Athlete/quarterback Trey Burton, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, redshirt linebacker Jelani Jenkins, defensive end/LB Ronald Powell and redshirt kick returner/wide receiver Andre Debose were all honored by the conference.

Floyd, Jenkins, Powell and Debose were all five-star recruits coming out of high school, while Burton was a three-star prospect and one of the main reasons Florida’s stellar 2010 recruiting class stayed together through head coach Urban Meyer‘s first resignation in 2009.

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Week 12: Gators post-game news & notes

Rebounding with a dominant 48-10 win over the Appalachian State Mountaineers (9-2) on Senior Day Saturday in Gainesville, FL, the Florida Gators (7-4) seemed to get some of their mojo back winning the first game in their last four tries at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. With so much to discuss, OGGOA presents some important notes and quotes following the contest.

BLACK AND POUNCEY REDUCED MEYER TO A “WHIMPER”

After watching his seniors put on a stellar performance as a class on Saturday, head coach Urban Meyer gushed about two guys in particular – safety Ahmad Black and center Mike Pouncey.

“You [go] start-to-finish with guys; you see the growth not only as football players,” Meyer said after the game. “Ahmad – I have never been around a football player that has made such a progress from day one until day four years later. He’s the best strong safety in college… I can’t say that because I don’t know all of them, but if I had my draft pick of a strong safety, I’m taking Ahmad Black.

“And then Mike Pouncey – him and his brother and I saw his mom break down before the game crying – what those two meant for this program… To think there’s not going to be a Pouncey playing for us next year, that’s real hard to deal with right now.”
Asked after the game if he cried like his players did when they came out of the tunnel before the contest, Meyer tried to act tough but then let down his guard. “I don’t use the word ‘cry’ – that’s soft,” he said. “Whimper? Eye moisture and whimper. [Does] ‘whimper’ sound tough enough? Balled my eyes off then. I was emotional, those are good guys.”

MEYER RECOGNIZES THAT DEFENSE IS STILL STRUGGLING

Though Florida’s defense had a decent day, Meyer continues to notice that it is not playing near the level it did the last two seasons. “I think we could have played better, I really do. I think they played well, but there’s a style of play that’s been a tradition set way before these guys and that is just dominant changing-line-of-scrimmage defense,” he said. “I think we’ll get there eventually; we’re not there right now.”

TAKING BACK GIVING UP THE SWAMP

When Meyer took over in 2005, two of his main goals were dominating the Gators’ natural rivals and reclaiming The Swamp as a land of dominance. Though Meyer is 2-0 (and going for 3-0) against Florida’s traditional rivals this season, his team had previously lost three-straight games at home. “Awful. It’s not back. We’re going to work all offseason to get that thing back. It’s not,” Meyer said. “To say you’re going to go beat Appalachian State and say you got homefield advantage [back], that’s something… We beat it into them when we first got here and we’re going to re-beat… We lost more games [at home] I believe this year than we did the whole previous five years. That’s absolutely unacceptable. That will be a major discussion in the offseason.”

HIS NAME IS GARY…GARY BEEMER

A redshirt senior walk-on who has been specializing in defensive end on the Gators’ practice team, Gary Beemer is a player who may be unknown to most coaches. Not Meyer, who went out of his way to make sure he scored a touchdown on Senior Day. “Gary Beemer is one of my favorite players on our team,” he said. “He’s a guy that is about as unselfish a guy as you’re going to get. Our players love him because he goes every day. He’s going to go into a career of coaching. I grabbed him in the third quarter and said, ‘If we get close enough, I’d like to hand you the ball.’ We did that to Javier [Estopinan] a couple of years ago – just out of respect for the kid.”

INJURY UPDATES

» Redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose – ankle – tweaked it before the game warming up, held out as a precaution; should be ready next week
» Redshirt sophomore cornerback Jeremy Brown – hamstring – pulled it earlier in the week and was held out; should be ready next week
» Junior CB Janoris Jenkins – concussion – suffered a “slight” concussion during the game and was held out from that point forward; should be ready next week
» Redshirt sophomore defensive end Earl Okine – concussion – suffered one during the game; next week’s status is unknown
» Freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley – ankle – left on crutches and may be out for the season if it is a high ankle sprain
» Sophomore linebacker Dee Finley – broken collarbone – will return next week

QUOTES (Some good stuff after the break…)
Continue Reading » Week 12: Gators post-game news & notes

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